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Los Angeles fire captain sues vape shops after a May 2020 explosion left him without fingers

Los Angeles fire captain whose fingers were blown off when battling a blaze at vape shop that exploded is suing for damages

  • Los Angeles Fire Captain Victor Aguirre sued two vape shop owners Wednesday after a 2020 explosion at their stores left him with ‘catastrophic injuries’
  • Aguirre accuses building owner Steve Sungho Lee and the two vape shop proprietors of ‘hazardous activity, premise liability and negligence’ in the suit
  • The explosion hurt 12 firefighters and left Aguirre hospitalized for two months – according to the suit, he needed all of his fingers partially amputated
  • The fire was fueled by too many nitrous oxide and butane containers in the shops, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department 
  •  The property and store owners have already been charged with over 300 criminal counts after a criminal investigation by the ATF and LAPD
  • After they struck plea deals in November, the smoke shop owners paid the city of LA over $100,000   


Victor Aguirre and his wife, Claudia, named warehouse owner Steve Sungho Lee and the owners of Green Buddha and Smoke Tokes, the two smoke shops housed in Lee’s East 3rd Street building where the explosion that injured 12 firefighters took place

A Los Angeles fire captain is suing two vape shops and their landlord after an explosion left him with ‘catastrophic injuries’ and without fingers. 

Victor Aguirre was battling a blaze at an LA warehouse housing smoke shops Green Buddha and Smoke Tokes, at 327 East Boyd Street, on May 16, 2020 when the building exploded.

Twelve firefighters were injured including Aguirre who lost all his fingers.

The explosion was blamed on an excess of nitrous oxide and butane containers in the shops.  

On Wednesday, the firefighter and his wife, Claudia, named warehouse owner Steve Sungho Lee and the owners of Green Buddha and Smoke Tokes, in a negligence lawsuit.

Aguirre accused the three parties of ‘hazardous activity, premise liability and negligence,’ according to the Los Angeles Times

Attorney Patrick Gunning wrote in the complaint Lee and business owners Raheel Lakhany and Shafaq Sattar are ‘to blame for the horrific injuries Mr. Aguirre and the other 11 firefighters suffered.’ 

Gunning alleges in the lawsuit that responding firefighters thought they were fighting a ‘routine ventilation limited structure fire’ – moments after they entered the building, however, they heard a ‘popcorn-like noise that became a ‘jet-like rumble.’

The enormous explosion that ensued – caused by an excess of nitrous oxide and butane containers in the stores, the LAPD and the ATF determined in a later investigation – engulfed Aguirre and the other firefighters in flames.

Video and still images taken by witnesses that day, according to the LA Times, capture the firefighters headed down the ladder of a fire truck while totally consumed by flames. Aguirre was allegedly the last firefighter out of the building. 

Video and still images taken by witnesses that day, according to the LA Times, capture the firefighters headed down the ladder of a fire truck while totally consumed by flames. Aguirre was allegedly the last firefighter out of the building

Video and still images taken by witnesses that day, according to the LA Times, capture the firefighters headed down the ladder of a fire truck while totally consumed by flames. Aguirre was allegedly the last firefighter out of the building

 After two months in the hospital, 20-year department veteran Aguirre had to have all of his fingers partially amputated – his body, according to the lawsuit, was covered in severe burns. Since the explosion, he said he has undergone 25 surgeries. 

Although he has returned to the department in an administrative capacity, the lawsuit alleges that he has been left with a ‘lifetime of pain and suffering,’ according to the Times.  

The explosion was caused by an excess of nitrous oxide and butane containers in the two stores, the Los Angeles Police Department and the ATF determined – the Los Angeles Fire Department had not inspected the building in a year.  

Aguirre accused the three parties of 'hazardous activity, premise liability and negligence,' according to the Los Angeles Times

Aguirre accused the three parties of ‘hazardous activity, premise liability and negligence,’ according to the Los Angeles Times 

Attorney Patrick Gunning wrote in the complaint Lee and business owners Raheel Lakhany and Shafaq Sattar are 'to blame for the horrific injuries Mr. Aguirre and the other 11 firefighters suffered'

Attorney Patrick Gunning wrote in the complaint Lee and business owners Raheel Lakhany and Shafaq Sattar are ‘to blame for the horrific injuries Mr. Aguirre and the other 11 firefighters suffered’

The explosion was caused by an excess of nitrous oxide and butane containers in the two stores, the Los Angeles Police Department and the ATF determined - the Los Angeles Fire Department had not inspected the building in a year

The explosion was caused by an excess of nitrous oxide and butane containers in the two stores, the Los Angeles Police Department and the ATF determined – the Los Angeles Fire Department had not inspected the building in a year

Fire chief Ralph Terrazas told the Times that a fire inspection likely would have resulted in the removal of some of the materials that sparked the explosion.

The store and property owners have already been charged with over 300 criminal counts. In a plea agreement last November, the proprietors and building owner agreed to shut down their businesses and pay out more than $100,000 to the city. 

The parties also had to shell out $127,000 to the Los Angeles Fire Department for the cost of their investigation, the Times said. Criminal charges against Sattar and Lakhany were dropped per the plea deal; charges against Lee are pending.

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